Too much power struggle, not enough power – by Ana Maria Luca
More infighting in the Syrian opposition coalition
The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNC) announced on Tuesday it had voted to dissolve its interim government, led by Prime Minister Ahmad Tomeh. Another Syrian government-in-exile is to be formed within a month, the coalition said in a statement. The group also said it was « creating new ground for work on the basis of moving the government into the interior [of Syria] as soon as possible, and employing Syrian revolutionary capabilities. »
To some, the dissolution of the coalition government, the only body recognized by the US and several European countries as representative of the Syrian opposition, came as a surprise, especially as the opposition struggles to confront the strong emergence of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) as the dominant militia in the liberated north of the country. Syrian activists, though, say the move shows how weak the national coalition is, and that it is really unlikely to affect the Syrians’ struggle in any way.
According to Lebanese journalist and analyst Mustafa Fahs, the dissolution of the government was not a spontaneous idea. “People had a lot of expectations and were waiting for it to do a lot of work that it didn’t,” he said. “They gave it more than one chance to improve its performance.” A second reason was that the political factions forming the coalition kept accusing each other of trying to take control of the fragile cabinet.
Several sources in the coalition say the pretext for the dissolution was a dispute between Tomeh, who meant to dismantle the FSA Supreme Military Council over corruption allegations, and the coalition’s former president, Ahmed Jarba, who annulled Tohmeh’s decision, saying that the interim PM was not in a position to do so.
But activists and analysts alike say the reasons are much deeper, and that the change is not expected to bring much hope to the opposition on the ground.
“The echo of dissolving the government is the same echo that forming the government and the coalition itself had: none whatsoever,” Maher Esber told NOW. “People are not interested in this.” Esber, an activist who spent nine years in prison for his anti-regime political activities, said that although the coalition brought some hope when it was first formed, it failed to deliver. “The inside struggle between its factions soon became a Saudi-Qatari-Turkish struggle,” Esber explained. Internal skirmishes have prevented the SNC cabinets, elected in exile, from being able prove themselves.
Esber also says accusations of corruption in the SNC have affected its credibility. “It is sometimes revealed that setting a high budget for issues that are not very important is done so to give political figures bigger importance. In most of the cases, the money that the coalition receives is being spent to promote and strengthen just some of the political factions. This is also a form of corruption.”
Bassil Haffar, based in Istanbul and a member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, one of the main factions in the coalition, said that the election Hadi al-Bahra to replace Ahmad Jabra was also a factor in the government being dissolved. The new president was a supporter of the chief of staff, whom the prime minister wanted to get rid of in June. “The lack of cohesion is definitely affecting the Syrian uprising,” Haffar noted. “The Syrian revolution needed a plan from the beginning and a clear strategy, especially in that it was related to a whole movement in the region. The revolution needed long-term planning, but unfortunately what happened was completely different. A lot of activists are frustrated because of this,” he explained.
Haffar believes that the fracturing within the coalition that is making it impossible to politically control the military groups on the ground can be overcome in time and with a lot of effort. “It is definitely difficult, especially that some of the factions are trying to benefit from this fracturing and are encouraging it,” he said.
Fahs is more optimistic about the situation in the coalition. “This is not fracturing,” he insisted. “In every revolution there are different points of view and political affiliations, but they should unite behind the primary goal: taking down the regime. Unfortunately, in the Syrian revolution, we are seeing these different points of view create internal conflicts before the regime has been ousted.”
Myra Abdallah contributed reporting and translation
date : 23/07/2014